CFP: Exploring the ‘Grey Zones’: Governance, Conflict and (In)Security in Eastern Europe (Aarhus University, Denmark, 1-2. November 2013)

Keynote speakers: Professor Sarah Green, Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki; Dr. Frances Pine, Dept. of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London

Within the last two decades, countries in Eastern Europe have undergone a wide range of changes in the areas of geo-political relocations and relations. We have witnessed attempts to establish liberal democracies, re-orientations from planned to market economies, and a political desire to create ‘new states’ and internationally minded ‘new citizens’. While parts of the populations have benefitted from these developments, other parts have instead experienced increasing poverty, unemployment and social insecurity.
Today we see that people in such vulnerable positions are increasingly relying on normative coping and semi-autonomous strategies, sometimes even crime and violence, in order to obtain the security and social guarantees they feel deprived of in their present day societies. Such processes testify to a paradoxical situation between, one the one hand, the political attempts to create well-functioning, modern civil societies and, on the other hand, reliance on normative laws on the margins of society.

In this conference we wish to explore the aspects of everyday uncertainty, which we define as ‘grey zones’. This term refers to the ambiguities, insecurities and contradictions which lead to responses and strategies challenging perceptions of legality and illegality. Within anthropology, ‘grey zones’ have been conceived of in relation to political corruption (Robertson 2006) and zones of ambiguity related to violence (Roy 2008). Yet, we propose to expand the term to include situations where uncertainty and ambiguity have become part and parcel of everyday life and where the indefinable becomes that which defines the situation.

We view these various grey zones not merely as legacies of socialism but as something in and of themselves. We thus deploy the notion of grey zones in order to find new ways of approaching and conceptualizing current situations in Eastern Europe, ways that are not preconfigured in terms of ‘post-socialism’ or ‘transition’.

We invite papers which ethnographically explore (but are not necessarily restricted to) one or more of the following questions:

What are the relations between governance, corruption and informality in contemporary Eastern Europe?
How do new emerging class systems in Eastern Europe affect people’s perceptions of self and other?
In which ways do changing relations between individuals, institutions and state manifest themselves in everyday life?
Which roles do the mafia and organized crime play in contemporary Eastern Europe?
How do increased illegal work and labour migration to Western Europe relate to insecure situations on the home front?
How to citizens in Eastern Europe relate to the influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East in relation to their own situation and their perceptions of the borders of Europe (or the EU)?
How are we to perceive the seemingly increasing presence of antagonism, violence and openly expressed racism and homophobia in present-day Eastern Europe?

Please send an abstract of 250 words, along with a short biography of 150 words, no later than June 1st 2013 to:
Ida Harboe: [log in to unmask]
Martin Demant Frederiksen: [log in to unmask]

If your abstract is accepted we will ask you to send a paper for pre-circulation by October 1st. During the conference each participant will have 20 minutes to present, followed by 10 minutes of discussion. After the conference we will select the most relevant papers and publish them in an edited volume. Participants will receive an ‘information package’ about hotels, busses and conference dinner. Please note that the conference organizers will not be able to cover travel expenses and accommodation for anyone other than the keynote speakers.

Best regards,
Ida Harboe and Martin Demant Frederiksen (conference organizers)